Into the Unknown

Homily at St Philip Evans for the Solemnity of St John the Baptist, 2016.

There are days in history when the solid ground on which we stand is thrown up in the air. This morning, with the UK having narrowly voted to leave the EU, is such a day.

Whichever way we voted, we now face a period of uncertainty. Negotiations will take time and the timing and outcome of many things cannot yet be known.

Yet… there is nothing new in this for God’s people.

In ancient Israel, at the end of the age of the Judges, the people called for a king. The prophet Samuel warned them that a king would take their sons for his armies, and their daughters for his harems, but the people clamoured, and God allowed Samuel to anoint Saul as king.

To anoint a king means stability. To anoint a king is to found a dynasty, to accept that his son and his children’s children shall reign for generations to come.

But a day came in the history of Israel when the solid ground on which they stood was thrown up in the air. Samuel was divinely instructed to anoint the boy David as the next King of Israel. It was David’s lineage, not Saul’s, which provided the reign of Solomon and ultimately the heritage of Joseph, husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus the Christ.

Or take an elderly couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, well past the age of childbearing, and looking forward to their retirement. Yet one day, an angel appeared to Zechariah, with the news that his wife was to bear a son. Nor would the son take any name traditional in the family, but would have an entirely new identity. The people asked: “What will this child be?”

In the same way, as Britain today gives birth to an unknown child, an ex-EU member state, we can only watch and wonder what will unfold in the negotiations of the months and years ahead. But remember, there is nothing new for God’s people in having our expectations radically challenged.

There are days in history when the solid ground on which we stand is thrown up in the air. Two such days were the first Good Friday and Easter Sunday, marked by inconsolable grief and indescribable joy. The one who was with his disciples then is with us now. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have encouraged s to pray Cardinal Martini’s Prayer for Europe in this time of transition.